Out of the 19 sports at Franklin College, there are only four female head coaches. Gender inequality happens everywhere, including in the athletic field.
Dana Haggenjos, head women's basketball coach, was originally interested in becoming a doctor. However, her time as a college athlete at DePauw University inspired her to become a coach as she looked for something more permanent.
Haggenjos said it can be challenging to deal with college students, as they're growing to become adults. But, to help them do that, she said coaching is about building relationships and trust with the athletes.
"I never get to turn my job off, so when I go home at night, I'm still on the clock," Haggenjos said. "Because if somebody has an issue, I'm the one who's going to be dealing with their issue."
Many coaches would describe their job as a lifestyle as they work to prioritize their athletes and help them grow. However, dedication to the job forces people to make hard choices in their daily lives.
Haggenjos, a mother of two, splits the responsibilities to take care of the kids with her husband. She said she occasionally feels guilt for missing out on time being with her children.
Haggenjos sees her athletes like family. Before COVID-19, she would bring her two kids to basketball practices and feel at ease when the kids wandered around.
“Literally, from one day to the next they changed so fast in front of your eyes, so I feel like I missed out on a lot,” Haggenjos said. “...I honestly don’t know what I’ll do when my kids actually become competitive in things or are in school plays or what not, and if I can’t go to that, I don’t know how I will be able to cope with that.”
Mary Johnston, assistant director of athletics and women’s head volleyball coach, agreed that women consider every scenario before making a choice, as to how it’ll affect their professional careers and their families.
Johntson knows the pressure society places on mothers who work, and once the commitment to start a family is made, then having to split the work and family life becomes a weight.
Johnston puts her focus and strength on encouraging her athletes to become the best they can. This year Johnston was named the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference's Coach of the Year.
During her career, Johnston has faced her own challenges as a woman in sports along with female colleagues.
"Anytime that you're a minority in a field that's dominated by somebody, you are going to face struggles," Johnston said.
To ensure female athletes at Franklin College receive equal treatment, Steve Leonard, director of security at Franklin College, enforces Title IX. The civil rights law prohibits gender discrimination in programs and activities to offer students a fair and equal opportunity.
Junior Allison Thompson has played sports since she was a kid. Thompson is a current volleyball player at Franklin College under Johnston. Having experienced men and women coaches in her athletic career, she can tell the difference in the way each coach leads.
Thompson said she prefers having a woman as a head coach, because she feels more comfortable in discussing certain topics and connecting with them overall.
“I feel like you can go talk to [a female coach] about a lot of different things,” Thompson said. “You feel more comfortable than going up to a male coach and saying some of the same things.”
She notices the differences especially in sports events, given that men's teams have a larger audience than women teams.
“Male sports get a lot more fans than the female sports no matter how good either team is," Thompson said.
According to Move The Limit, an online sports magazine, college-level female coaches make up 32.9% of all head coaches.
A commons stereotype is that women are more caring, mother-like, and supportive, while men are seen as dominant and independent, according to Simply Psychology.
In sports, a coach’s job is to help athletes to reach their full potential. This means they ought to be confident and assertive, as well as demanding to their athletes. However, that goes against a woman’s stereotyped characteristics.
“I think that every coach has their own individual style, whether they’re male or female.” Johnston said. “I mean, you may have some female coaches that are more aggressive, just like a male is, or you might have a male coach that’s more...I mean, that’s such a generalization and stereotype.”
Angela Bain, head softball coach, focuses on advocating for her athletes so they can succeed in their sport and make their skills stand out during games. It’s about making the athletes be seen and allow them to play the sport.
“The commonality between all those great coaches [men and female] was that their vision and their desire was to help me grow into the best athlete and person that I could be, and when that’s the goal, great things happen athletically,” Bain said.
Every sport is different, so the experience each coach brings highly influences the performance of the athlete.
Andrew Hendricks, director of athletics and head swimming and diving coach, is now in charge of the hiring process for the athletics department. He said that when interviewing possible candidates, he focuses on skill rather than the gender of the coach.
“I don’t know if there’s any particular thing that makes a female coach better or worse than a male coach, I’ve never really looked at it that way.”Hendricks said. “I just kind of always looked at the individual and what strengths they bring.”
As they continue to grow in their field, the coaches at Franklin College said they will continue to advocate for their athletes as society slowly sees individuals for their worth, rather than their gender.